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Walter G. Robertson

Company H-1

4 Mar 1938 - 16 Feb 2016

Place of Death: Leesburg. VA

Interment: Arlington National Cemetery

It is with great regret and sorrow that we must notify you of the death of our Classmate, Butch Robertson, on February 16, 2016 in Leesburg, VA.

Butch is survived by his wife, Barbara; daughter, April; son, David Pierce and his son Caleb; son, Steven Pierce and his spouse Irene; grandchildren, Stephanie Angele and her husband Ethan, Marcel Pierce and his wife Heather, Mary Reuter and her husband Louis, John Pierce, Paul Pierce, Mark Pierce, and Luke Piece; and great grandchildren, Brigitte Angele, Liliana Angele, Derek Angele, Kateri Angele, Gerard Pierce, Killian Pierce, and Ignatius Reuter

A memorial service will be held at 2 PM, February 25, 2016, at the Great Oak Clubhouse at Ashby Ponds, 44755 Audubon Square, Ashburn, VA  20147. 

The funeral for Butch Robertson will be at 1 PM on June 21, 2016 at the Old Post Chapel, Fort Myer, VA, with burial with full military honors to follow at Arlington National Cemetery.  A reception will follow at the Fort Myer Officers Club.

Condolences may be sent to Barbara at 21144 Cardinal Pond Terrace, #WC402, Ashburn, VA  20147 

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Butch’s memory be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS  66675. 

Well done, Butch.  Be thou at peace.


Class Memorial Pages\H-1 Butch Robertson.pdf

Okja and I plan to attend.  Beyond that, words fail me. Fortunately, fond memories of our ever cheerful warrior-friend and classmate lend comfort to help combat our inevitable sorrow. 

Over the many decades since our graduation I have frequently claimed that our old South Area Beast Barracks squad (Butch, Jim Cullen, Terry Kirkpatrick, Tom Mercer, Bill Nesbeitt, & TFF) was the only squad to survive Beast Barracks intact all the way to graduation and to reach these later years undiminished.  Now, as we face the inevitable, may Butch Robertson’s ever cheerful presence offer comfort and example of a soldier's life well-lived.  

I believe you may recall the Handrail Award Ceremony Butch arranged less than a year ago at our Ft Belvoir Class Brunch.  I was deeply honored when Butch presented to me the piece of stairwell railing he valiantly removed from our old Co. G-1 Central Area barracks just prior to their demolition.  This piece of railing will forever summon up fond memories of our Butch Robertson as we wait our turn to follow him into our Long Grey Line. 

In Sadness,TFF, Central Area Flanker, emeritus, Co. G-1

Walter G. (aka "Butch") Robertson was a high-school buddy of mine in Las Vegas High School (class of 1956). We were on football and basketball teams together and enjoyed our classmates on those same teams. Butch was the son of the Superintendent of Public Schools in east Las Vegas, NM; later the high school was named in his father's honor, posthumously, as Robertson High School in 1957. I had hoped that he might be at one of our high school reunions, but unfortunately, he was never able to attend. I missed see him in those years after his graduation at West Point.

Tommy B Thompson


It is my sad honor to be asked to say a few words about Butch from the perspective of his West Point classmates.  I feel quite inadequate to the task on two counts. 

First, I cannot presume to represent the 800 plus young men (it was all men then) who started with the class of 1961 or the 534 who eventually graduated.  While I am confident they would all share my sentiments about Butch, there are many who would express them in far more eloquent terms than I can.  Some are present here today and I hope they will share their own reminiscences. 

Second, I feel inadequate in trying to summon words that would do Butch justice – what words are there to describe a man of such achievement and character, a man who was loved by so many?

 The West Point experience is not only defined by the arduous four years on the rock.  Because of the special bonds that are formed between classmates, it lasts a lifetime.

Butch himself described his four years as a cadet as among the happiest of his life.  Not all of us felt that way, but it is an indication of his natural leadership ability, his good humor, and his singing voice – yes, his singing voice – that he would think that.

When I polled classmates in our company about their recollections of Butch, those three qualities were consistently mentioned.  I’ll give brief examples of each drawn from those recollections.

First, his leadership ability:

John Grisoni:  “Almost 60 years ago I was about to be separated from West Point because of deficiency in mathematics. There were those in my H-1 cadet company, both classmates and upperclassmen, who encouraged me to stay the course.  I recall Butch coming to me one day to tell me that he would do all he could to help me succeed for the rest of the year if only I could hold on to the current semester.  He was willing to share his time and energy in what was a very demanding plebe year for all of us.  That was the kind of leader and man that Butch was.  As I near my 80th birthday, I often think of how blessed I was for being in the company of those fine young men such as Butch.  I have truly marched among giants.  I will never forget, nor have I ever experienced outside of my family, such love and support. And the camaraderie continues to this day.  Well done, Butch.”

Bill Nesbeitt:  “Butch had a huge impact on many of us young cadets. I well recall his ever-present positive attitude.  He led and inspired without displaying a run-away ego or exuding an obsession with self-important desires to ‘take control.’”

George Cherry:  “The main thing I remember about Butch was that he was the perfect blend of business and fun.  Our four years at West Point seemed to be an effortless walk in the park for him.  Although he seemed to enjoy every minute of it, he was serious when the occasion called for it.  He would do his job and help others with theirs.”

Bruce Cowan:  “He was the highest ranking cadet in our company and highest rank doesn't always go well with being well liked.  Not the case with Butch.  Despite his rank everyone in the company liked Butch and respected him.  He was a genuine good guy - everyone's friend and gaining everyone's respect for his high rank which he carried well.”

Bob Kewley:  “However you would describe ‘natural leadership,’ Walter Gaines Robertson had it.  Butch made friends easily, unknowingly demanded respect, and never lost an H-1 friendship.  I know that through the years, wherever we were, whatever we were doing, we enjoyed being around him, were all a bit happier, better led, and perhaps entertained, when he was in the group.

Second, his sense of humor:

Butch himself said he “would want to be remembered as one of good humor, always trying to be funny and sometimes succeeding.” Well, he succeeded beyond his expectations.

George Cherry:  “He was a much better than average comedian who loved life.”

One anecdote testifies to the puckish sense of humor which fortunately stayed with him his whole life:

Mike Underwood and Bob Kewley:  “In addition to the three of us roommates, we also had Thor and Igor, the hamsters.  Mike had a metal box for 33 rpm records.  We cut off the bottoms of the record jackets and glued all the tops together. That way Thor and Igor had a nice home during the day – in the record box.  Since the hamsters were nocturnal, we would let them out at night and they would just make a circuit of the room as fast as they could.  Round and round they would run.  Often we would hold hamster racing competitions.  One night during the evening study time, we had Igor out and were letting him run.  The Officer of the Day unexpectedly burst into our room and before anyone could react, Igor ran over his shoes. The next day Butch had to report to our company tactical officer with hat and Igor in hand.  Butch did not get in bad trouble over Igor but we did have to get rid of the little guy.  (Thor, who was undiscovered, left on his own terms a few days later.)  As Butch once said, perhaps Thor and Igor or their descendants are still roaming the halls of old south area.

And finally, his singing voice:

You might wonder why this would be so important.  Well, it was because it got him a prominent place in the Glee Club and in the Chapel Choir, both of which afforded the opportunity to get off of West Point for brief trips to perform in the outside world.  In fact, Butch said, “If records were kept for time away from the Rock on boondoggle trips, (I) would rank pretty high.”

Nick Plodinec:  “He was a fine man....highly respected for his intelligence, leadership qualities, and great sense of humor.  We shared many fun moments in the Glee Club where he was also an outstanding vocalist.”

Bill Nesbeitt:  “My memory brings up a happy vision of Butch and my ears hear yet again his magnificent voice singing ‘Oh Danny Boy’ on Glee Club trips.  The young ladies did swoon!  Butch was delightful and entirely filled with a joyful spirit on those trips.”

Mike Underwood:  “(At) Mike Xenos’ wedding a couple of days after graduation, Butch sang ‘Ave Maria’ during the ceremony.  We were in a church and the choir loft was above and at the back of the sanctuary.  So, at the appropriate time, Butch sang and his voice sort of washed over us.  I will never forget the impact that had on me.”

Butch wrote of himself that, “He knew life is precious, and so as you realize you are on the down slope, relations with other living things tend to be increasingly emotional, sentimental, and meaningful, a truth of life we should learn on the up-slope.”  Butch need not have worried.  On the “up-slope” he acquired more friends and admirers who truly loved him than can be counted.

Bob Kewley wrapped it up: “For me it went beyond having a close friend.  He was an ardent supporter who added elements to my life that have made me a better person, proud of who I’ve become.  Butch’s legacy transcended more than that time, our time at West Point.  He remained loyal . . . to the brotherhood developed so many years ago.  That kind of lifetime mutual loyalty, respect and admiration is something most people never experience, and will likely not see ever again.  From the comments and memories expressed by others you can see, Butch Robertson obviously earned that respect and admiration.”

I last saw Butch on Veteran’s Day last year.  Todd Counts and I came out for a very happy few hours.  The last words Butch and I exchanged on this earth were, “I love you.”  In that sense, I think I really can represent my classmates, both by saying those words to Butch and hearing them from him.  We all loved him, and know that he loved us.

These words are sung in the final stanza of the West Point Alma Mater: “and when our work is done, our course on earth is run, may it be said well done, be thou at peace.”

Well done, Butch. be thou at peace

Mike Eiland
25 Feb 2016


Taps Memorial Article:

Walter G. Robertson  1961

Cullum No. 23480-1961 | February 16, 2016 | Died in Ashburn, VA
Interred in Arlington National Cemetery, VA

Walter Gaines “Butch” Robertson was born and raised in the wide-open spaces of New Mexico, where he developed a love for animals and the outdoors. His father was an educator, and his parents stressed Christian values, reinforced by the fact that both of Butch’s grandfathers were Methodist ministers.

In high school in Las Vegas, NM, Butch excelled in several sports. He also developed a strong interest in the battles of World War II and Korea, and made up his mind to pursue the Profession of Arms. He was determined to follow two respected uncles and two cousins to the world’s most prestigious military educational institution, West Point.

Butch described his four years at West Point as among the happiest in his life, at least after surviving Beast Barracks, plebe English, and math. His classmates invariably describe Butch as possessing natural leadership abilities, a puckish sense of humor, and a wonderful singing voice. He naturally commanded respect, yet made friends easily. He became a cadet battalion commander, lettered three years in lightweight football, and enjoyed the benefits of being in the Cadet Glee Club and the Chapel Choir. Butch said that if records were kept on time away from West Point on boondoggle trips, he would have ranked pretty high. His rendition of “Danny Boy” could elicit tears, especially from the young ladies who swooned at the sound of his voice.

One anecdote testifies to that puckish sense of humor, which stayed with him his whole life: Against all rules, Butch and his roommates kept two hamsters, Igor and Thor, in an elaborately constructed nest of 33-1/3 record covers. The animals were let out at night to run around the room, sometimes in timed races. One evening the officer of the day unexpectedly entered, whereupon Igor ran over his shoe. The next day Butch had to report to the H-1 tactical officer and was ordered to get rid of Igor (Thor remained undiscovered but left on his own terms a few days later). No matter how many times Butch recounted this story over the years, his dead pan delivery never failed to crack up his audience. Butch always hoped the descendants of Igor and Thor might still race around South Area at night.

At graduation Butch chose Infantry and reported to Fort Benning, GA. Following airborne and Ranger training, his first unit assignment was in Korea as a platoon leader in the First Cavalry Division. He then returned to Fort Benning for advanced schooling and subsequent duty as a company commander with the 2nd Infantry Division. Butch served two combat tours in Vietnam, first as an advisor to a Vietnamese infantry battalion and, later, once again with the First Cavalry Division. He was decorated for valor five times. In between his Vietnam tours he returned to West Point as senior infantry instructor in the Tactical Department, where he particularly enjoyed running summer training programs. Following Command and General Staff College, Butch served as Deputy Commandant of West Point’s Prep School at Fort Belvoir, VA. This was followed by staff assignments in Washington, DC and Fort McPherson, GA.

While serving in the Military Personnel Center in Alexandria, VA in 1975, Butch became smitten with his boss’s executive secretary, Barbara. Following a not-so-secret courtship, they were married in 1976. Barbara brought two sons, Dave and Steve, and Butch brought a daughter, April, to the marriage. After their marriage, Butch was posted to Fort McPherson. Although selected for battalion command, Butch elected to retire in 1981, having grown fond of the Atlanta area and wanting to try new paths. He and Barbara enjoyed successful ventures in selling health foods and products. They practiced the healthy lifestyles they preached, owning houses on golf courses in the Atlanta area and later in Florida. They continued to work from home but spent more and more time on the golf course. Unfortunately, Butch’s health began to deteriorate, and they eventually moved to the Ashby Ponds community in northern Virginia, living near Barbara’s sister.

Throughout their retirement, Butch and Barbara loved getting on the open road and drove a motor home much of every summer. Their greatest fun was an annual sojourn to Idaho to spoil grandchildren.

In his own words, “Butch would want to be remembered as one of good humor, always trying to be funny and occasionally succeeding. He believed that all relationships were important, while a few are precious. He believed that soldiers you lead are like your family: they deserve your absolute best effort. He intensely loved animals, and never met a dog he did not pet. He knew life is precious, and so as you realize you are on the down-slope, relations with other living things tend to be increasingly emotional, sentimental, and meaningful; a truth of life we should learn on the up-slope.”

To his classmates, friends, and family, Butch personified that “truth of life.” On the “up-slope” he acquired more friends and admirers who truly loved him than can be counted. Butch inspired loyalty because he was loyal. He inspired love because he loved. He inspired smiles and laughter because he smiled and laughed. He reached into our lives, and shaped our personal and collective ethos. Through the years, wherever we were, whatever we were doing, we were a bit happier, better led—and entertained—when he was with us.

When our course on earth is run, he will doubtless be waiting to greet us with songs and cheer. For a life well-lived, for enriching the lives of so many others, Well Done, Butch. Be thou at peace.

— Family and H-1 Classmates